You might want to look at the work of Gregory Schopen for studies of the archaeology and epigraphy of early Buddhist sites in India. "Bones, Stones and Buddhist Monks," and other works. In particular, he is interested in comparing what can be learned from inscriptions at the sites with what is described in the texts, the differences and their implications.
Schopen's work is definitely not just interesting, but quite essential reading for this sort of thing.
However, I personally feel he makes too much of the idea that somehow epigraphy shows "real buddhism" "on the ground", whereas texts are merely "what the monastics wanted" as prescriptive content. Epigraphy is also text, graphy = text, basically. And those who could afford to make such engravings are probably no more representative of "buddhism on the ground" as those scriptures written by scholarly monastics. ie. the wealthy and powerful, and the scholastic.
I also disagree with his emphasis on using the Tibetan version of the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya as what he thinks as one of the earliest Vinaya sources. I don't know how anybody can swallow that, quite frankly. I figure he's probably just more fluent in Tibetan than Pali or Chinese, so leans that way, then has to argue that this text is the most original.
I also don't think much of his ofttimes sarcastic condescending tone, either. He could say the same thing without needing to do this. It implies to me that he takes it too personally, like he is out there to debunk and prove others wrong, and taking delight in that. While testing theories is what scholarship is about, it should be done with respect.
Still, he does make some good points. So, still worth reading, for sure.